Month: September 2011

Lawn Trout

Fall is officially here and it’s a time of year that many anglers welcome thanks to the emergence of some noteworthy insects. With summer now in the rear-view mirror, hoppers and stones taper off and give way to baetis hatches that bring trout to the surface for some challenging autumnal angling: tiny bugs, light tippet, and water that is—to use an already overused term—gin clear. Another important bug, the October Caddis, offers an important source of calories to fish preparing for the long winter ahead. These large flies, in all their pumpkin-orange splendor, also signal that it’s time for humans to up their caloric intake by consuming vast quantities of completely unnecessary Halloween candy. Case in point: we’ve had exactly 2 trick-or-treaters at our house in 10 years, and yet we’re always somehow prepared with several pounds of candy bars.  Fall is also a time that another insect rears it’s ugly head: The European Crane Fly. They may or may not be prevalent near every trout stream in the world, but if you have a yard with grass you’re likely to witness this abundant fall hatch.

Crane Fly pattern (Galloup's Slide Inn Fly Shop)

The severity of the Crane Fly hatch can vary from year to year, and in my assessment a lot depends on how moist the previous spring was. If the ground in which the grass grows remains damp and cool, a good bountiful fall hatch can be expected. Given how extended and wet our Pacific Northwest Spring was this year thanks to La Niña (a.k.a. “The Bitch”), the Crane Fly hatch taking place right now is—to use another overused term—epic. The nymphal shucks can be seen scattered all over the lawn, and all I have to do is walk through the grass on my daily poop patrol to observe the adults fluttering about in every direction as they hook up with sexual partners before seeking moist, cool areas in which to lay their eggs. If I were to close my eyes I could easily imagine myself walking not across the lawn, but instead wading in a river as fish rise with reckless abandon to pick off these large, clumsy bugs. If I closed my eyes I’d also step in dog shit, so I keep my eyes peeled accordingly. Subsequently I see no fish rising to eat Crane Flies.

Crane Fly nymphal shucks

Consenting adult Crane Flies

Egg laying adult Crane Fly

Crane flies can be the bane of lawn owners and many use pesticides to kill the larvae (a.k.a. “leather jackets”), which may damage a lawn as they feed on the roots of the grass. The grubs are big, thick, meaty, nasty looking maggots that resemble something people would eat on the too-long running television show, Survivor. When densely populated, these grubs can devastate entire sections of lawn.

Crane Fly larva–nom nom nom

In order to control the larvae chemically, I’ve been told to use pesticides in the two months beginning with A: April and August. Apparently using a pesticide in April kills the grubs as they begin to actively feed, and applying again in August kills any grubs not killed in April, before they can hatch, lay eggs, and complete the circle.  I’m generally opposed to using pesticides for obvious reasons, though I have been known in the past to spot treat small areas where the infestation of Crane Fly grubs was heavy. Still, chemicals that will kill bugs will kill other things that we may not want killed, and pollutants run downhill and eventually end up in our streams. Where fish live. As they say over at Recycled Fish, “Our lifestyles run downstream.” So, please read the warning labels before you decide to use chemicals on your lawn. Pesticides bad!

Warning: Read this. No, really.

My opposition to using damaging chemicals recently gave rise to an alternative, organic idea that I think would appeal to many: Lawn Trout. Now I know what you’re saying: “Lawn Trout would be no different than moles, and would subsequently cause collateral damage beyond their benefit.” Before we more closely examine the idea of Lawn Trout, let’s first unearth some information regarding moles.

Lawn damage caused by moles, not Lawn Trout.

As hard as it is to imagine, there is an apparent benefit to having moles in your yard. If you look beneath the cosmetic damage caused by these velvet-coated, tunnel-digging pests, they are (allegedly) beneficial because they aerate the soil and control damaging subterranean insects (such as Crane Fly larvae). While that may supposedly be true, I would say to those who would tout the merits of moles, “You don’t have moles.” Well, I have moles. They’ve caused damage to more sections of my yard than any amount of Crane Flies, and there is no permanent means of keeping moles out of one’s yard, shy of digging a 5 foot deep trench around the perimeter of your property and filling it with concrete (if you do this, make damn sure there are no moles inside the barrier you’re constructing). Moles can be very difficult to trap, although I have had some success in doing so, from which I derived great pleasure. I make no apologies for this.

I hate moles and yes, I killed this one.

But Lawn Trout would not, like moles, burrow under the ground: they would cruise the surface. A Lawn Trout may pick at bugs on the ground and even make redds in your flower gardens, but they would no sooner burrow into the ground than trout burrow into the streambed. It’s a difficult concept to grasp so I’ve included a technical diagram to better illustrate the key differences between Lawn Trout and Moles:

In layman’s terms, you’ll be able to see Lawn Trout, whereas moles are sneaky and cowardly. Imagine, if you will, sitting on the porch proudly gazing out at your yard as Lawn Trout routinely cruise the expanse of lawn, feeding on damaging insects such as Crane Flies. The Lawn Trout would also control the mosquito population, which is problematic in many areas.

Lawn Cutthroat Trout feeding on Crane Fly

Obviously you would want to get up early or be watchful in the evening to observe most Lawn Trout activity, however on rainy, cloudy, miserable days you may even see Lawn Trout during midday as well. If you live where I do, you’ll routinely see Lawn Trout during midday. You may even see them beyond the perimeter of your yard as they venture about in search of food. Be on the alert when driving in Lawn Trout country!

Lawn Trout can brighten even the gloomiest day.

Lawn Trout would be free to come and go as they please, but the yard is where we must focus most of our attention, for it is the yard that will provide critical habitat for and derive the most benefit from Lawn Trout. The natural fish fertilizer would be excellent for the grass and other decorative plantings, unlike feline “Almond Roca” or piles of canine excrement which must be manually removed as it offers absolutely no benefit to one’s yard whatsoever. No need to spend hard-earned money at the hardware store when the same thing at no cost, thanks to Lawn Trout!

Why buy when you can get for free?

And speaking of Almond Roca, a resident Lawn Bull Trout living under your deck would surely solve the problem of the neighbor lady’s cat using your planter beds as its personal litter box.

Lawn Cat Fish?

It’s pretty clear already that the natural benefits of Lawn Trout will make them a welcome addition to any yard, but the presence of these overland salmonids needn’t be a matter of practicality without the potential for play. There’s no reason why lawn casting shouldn’t take on an added dimension: the chance to catch a fish while practicing your double haul!

Lawn casting becomes lawn fishing.

Furthermore, that same backyard sport needn’t stop with the home owner. Instead of chasing tennis balls or cats (if there are any cats left by now), the energetic family dog would be kept highly entertained by the presence of terrestrial pods of trouts. It’s safe to assume that Labradors could easily be taught to fetch and release. That is, if they could even catch a Lawn Trout.

Having a few Lawn Trout around the homestead may not be a substitute for actual fishing, but it may help ease the pain and suffering between fishing trips. We know that anglers love to fish, but let’s be honest—we cannot fish all the time. So when the angler cannot be on the water, what greater domestic pleasure can a fisherman derive than watching his wife mow the lawn? Watching his wife mow the lawn while Lawn Trout scurry playfully about the yard!

Mrs. UA mowing the lawn amidst a pod of Lawn Trout.

As Lawn Trout spread in popularity there will undoubtedly be some recreational landscapers who report sightings of Lawn Steelhead. These fanciful claims should be regarded with caution and skepticism. Without conclusive photographic proof, the authenticity of such outrageous claims cannot be accepted as truth. Do not trust grainy photographs or bad video footage as evidence of the existence of these mythical creatures.

Lawn Steelhead. Riiiight...

In addition to such ridiculous claims as Lawn Steelhead I suppose it’s certain to happen that with Lawn Trout would come less desirable species. There’s not much one can do about that so tolerance, if not outright acceptance, should be the yard owner’s goal as long as the undesirables aren’t damaging shrubbery. Some species, such as Lawn Grass Carp may even keep weeds in check and reduce the frequency with which your lawn needs mowing. And before you curse the presence of the Lawn Whitefish, remember–they may be an indication of a healthy yard. In fact, if you’ve got Lawn Whitefish, chances are you’ve also got a Blue Ribbon Lawn Trout Yard!

The misunderstood Lawn Grass Carp

The inevitable Lawn Whitefish

What of those burrowing vermin that were discussed earlier? Envision a 30-inch, hook-jawed meat eater lying in wait under a rhododendron for the sun to go down. As darkness falls and mole activity increases, the Brown Lawn Trout goes hunting. End of mole problem.

Mole-eating Brown Lawn Trout

My plan sounds remarkably foolproof but I will admit that the biggest challenge I see facing Lawn Trout is the matter of air.  Fish need water over their gills in order to breath, and even though the Pacific Northwest gets more than enough rain to keep things soggy most of the year (which Crane Flies like), it’s probably not enough water to sustain Lawn Trout (except during floods). That being said, maybe a few decorative Lawn Trout statues strategically placed throughout the yard would suffice to keep the Crane Flies at bay and scare off the moles. They may not be as good as the real thing, but at the very least ornamental Lawn Trout would be a welcome alternative to other yard decorations, right?

Ornamental Lawn Trout, good. Others, bad.

The Owl Jones Boycott has been lifted

When sarcasm is the desired effect, perhaps a disclaimer should be issued along with the written entry. Sorta like a product warning label stating the obvious: Don’t drink bleach.

But if a writer has to state outright that sarcasm is the tone of a message, it detracts from the whole endeavor: kinda like attaching a note to the outside of a birthday present announcing the contents. An accompanying sarcasm disclaimer signifies that the message was ineffective and it is the either the fault of the writer, or it means that the audience is sarcasm-challenged. Maybe a combination of the two Probably the latter.

Regarding the matter of my recent UAPSA titled, Boycott Owl Jones, I believe 99% of the audience picked up on the sarcasm (including Owl Jones himself). Perhaps 1% of the Planet did not. Because of that, and because I take my journalistic responsibilities very seriously, I have issued this official press statement:

The Unaccomplished Angler wishes to apologize did not mean any harm toward Mr. Owl Jones. While neon green text on a black background may in fact cause eye strain, visiting is not the cause of my deteriorating eyesight. It happens to men my age. I officially apologize to Mr. Jones for If there were any web traffic slowdowns caused by what was clearly a sarcastic blog entry, it is merely a regrettable circumstance. So if you’re really boycotting because of what was said on the Unaccomplished Angler, it’s disturbing that you would place that much credence in anything I would say.

I was thinking that there should be some sort of internet technology designed to reduce the chances of a written word being taken out of context without having to resort to the use of cute little smiley faces, which to me are personally troubling (I’ve been told that I’m not in touch with my emoticons). Perhaps someone can develop a Sarcasm Detection Plugin? While we wait for that technology, the matter of Owl’s eye-strain-invoking website has in fact been remedied.

But don’t take my word for it–click on over to and see for yourself. It’s safe to go back in the water.

Boycott Owl Jones

This is another UAPSA (and thus filed accordingly under the category of Public Service Announcements, and not Weekly Drivel®).

I try not to make a habit of reading, but once in a while–in a moment of weakness or temporary insanity–I make the mistake of stopping by the blog. I’m usually disappointed, but this time I was horrified. It seems as though Owl has decided to run with scissors and go against the flow (imagine that!) by assigning a black background to his website. Sensible and widely-accepted design principles will tell you that any dark background is bad enough, but at least most often a black background is accompanied by white text. So while it’s still hard on the eyes, it could be worse.  Like using neon green, for example, which is exactly what Owl did. The glare caused me to tap out before I could even read the entire entry, which I had somehow gotten sucked into reading. It was all I could do to leave a comment, to which Mr, Jones replied:

Clearly he is a stubborn man. Fortunately the Common Sense Cavalry, in the form of The River Damsel, rode in to back me up by attempting to talk some sense into Mr. Jones:

Her mostly sage words fell on deaf ears, although for a fleeting couple of moments Mr. Jones did assign yellow as his text color. And it helped, though only marginally so. I let him know as much and pleaded with him to listen to the River Damsel’s words of wisdom:

I don’t believe he took my suggestion to offer Owl Jones Contrast Diffusion Goggles seriously. I was serious. I wanted to go back and argue some more with him, but my eyes just couldn’t take it. This is the last comment in our discussion:

So what I would suggest to you all is to boycott  If you’ve been there before, or are a regular, don’t go back. If you’ve never been, consider yourself lucky and keep it at that…at least until he changes his background to white, with black letters. And to those of you who are contemplating the use of a black background, please reconsider. If you really feel you must have a black background (highly discouraged) at the very least use white text.

Good Will Fishing, Day Two

Why we were there

Day two of the friendly tournament (in which the catch results really didn’t matter) began for Team Olive at Palisades Dam. We would be floating what was referred to as Section One: approximately 14 river miles to our eventual take out at Conants. Unlike the previous day, the air was cool and made all the moreso by the howling wind and ominous shadow cast by the  large earthen structure. I was without, and wished for, a light jacket for the first hour of the day, but somehow managed to survive. Another notable difference on this day was the kicker motor mounted to the stern of Will’s and many of the other drift boats. The motor would prove invaluable for the first hour.

Palisades Dam

We launched and motored across and upstream against the strong current, taking up a position on the rock bulkhead just below the dam.  With weighted nymph rigs set deep, we worked a heavy seam for what we hoped would be big fish: big trout, to be exact. Casting these gems, with the solid side wind doing what it could to make sure we didn’t cast them, then trying to get a good mend, proved challenging. Marck was clearly up to the challenge and quickly worked his charm on what would be the best fish of the day: a nineteen inch rainbow. As Will recorded the eighteen inch rainbow on the score card we accepted the fact that given his staunch integrity from the day before, there was no chance of us convincing him that the fish was probably 19 inches.

Marck's 19 — er, 18 inch rainbow

After 20 minutes this stationary location yielded no more fish so we jumped into the boat and drifted a another seam below the dam. Aided by the current and the wind, it was a short drift. At the end of the run the motor was put to good use as we positioned ourselves at the top of the section and worked it again. And repeat. A couple of nice whitefish were hooked but no other 19 18 inch trout. The motor was stowed and we were on the go with the flow for the rest of the day.

Another thing that was different about this second day was the presence of clouds. After a clear start to the day, we seemed to be surrounded in all directions by ominous clouds that threatened electricity and rain.

Ominous clouds that didn't amount to much

We kept our fingers crossed that the sun would be obscured and the fish would starting looking up in earnest. We actually did have one cloud make a weak attempt to settle over us during which time a half dozen raindrops even fell. This very brief respite from the glaring sun did result in some actively rising fish but the clouds would not remain long enough to bring any sort of prolonged benefit. As we floated and pounded the banks with hooper/dropper, double dry and double nymph setups,  a recurring theme began to materialize: mend.

The fact that the weather remained largely sunny and hot didn’t mean that we wouldn’t catch any nice fish, however. I managed to land my trout of the trip in a side channel where the current was slow. It was classic dry fly water and we were able to anchor up and watch for rising fish. One thing an angler learns over time is that the fish making a ruckus when rising to bugs are smallish fish. It’s the the subtle riseforms that reveal the bigger fish. Those are the riseforms you want to target, particularly if you’re in a tournament where size matters.

Fortunately for Team Olive, we couldn’t have cared less about the the size of the fish we were catching. And so with this in mind I targeted a particular sipping fish whose riseforms were barely detectible. After a good mend the PMD slowly drifted closely to where the fish had last been seen, and then Hell broke loose. The take was subtle, but the thrashing that ensued put a solid bend in my 6 weight and shattered the still surface of the water. When the fish flashed its brightly colored flanks I could tell that this fish was unique. After landing the big cutt, it was clear that the old buck had been around the block a time or two. He was dark and vibrantly colored, with a protruding snout and plenty of scar tissue in his lip from a long life of having made bad decisions.


This old timer (the fish) made another bad lapse in judgment.

Will scored this fish accurately at 18 inches (easily an inch shorter than Marck’s 18 inch rainbow from the morning) and we continued on our way. Though our two best fish of the day were now behind us, we obviously had no way of knowing this, so we continued fishing with hope that our best fish was still to be caught. We relentlessly pounded the banks, doing our best to follow the orders to mend. Doing so resulted in several more smaller fish and the other two fish that would be scored for the day: Marck’s 17 inch cutt and my 16 inch brown, which appeared much smaller because it was the only skinny fish we’d caught on this river in two days. Why this “snake” was as he was is anyone’s guess, but my hunch is that the fish was burning too many calories chasing imitation bugs and not spending enough time eating the real thing.


Marck's 17" cutt

As with the day before, on this second day it became apparent that only fish over 16 inches are worthy of a photo and so the skinny 16 inch brown did not make the cut. I did manage to convince Will that a particular sub-16 inch cutt was worth a photo. Maybe Will silently acknowledged that the fish was actually 16 inches, or may he held it in higher regard because it was a native fish to this river.


A rare, photo-worthy, sub-16 inch cutt

As the day wore on the catching slowed a bit, although we did continue to add numbers to our total tally. And every cast brought with it renewed hope, so we kept casting for a fish; for a cure.  And mending.  We even managed to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the river.

Some cliffs

Some waterfalls

Some puffy clouds

We got off the water at about 7 PM, adding an impressive 10 inch rainbow to our total while the take out was in view. At the end of the day we’d managed to improve our performance over the previous day: Team Olive’s total for day two was 27 trout, including an 19 18 inch rainbow, 18 inch cutthroat, 17 inch cutthroat, and a 16 inch brown.  I joke that it didn’t really matter the size or numbers of fish caught because we were there to raise money and awareness for Rett Syndrome. And that’s true. However, each team’s total was assigned a dollar amount ($10 per fish) that would be donated to the International Rett Syndrome Foundation in the name of the angels the teams were representing.  Marck and I were pleased to have $490 donated in the name of Brooklyn.

Total fish counts and dollar amounts donated in the names of our angels.

Overall the event netted over $40,000 for the International Rett Syndrome Foundation. To quote C4C Executive Director Bill Farnum, “This will fund some very important clinical drug trials that we are starting to pull together.” Right on.

I don’t want to showboat my math prowess, but there were some interesting figures that resulted from the two days of fishing:

  • Compiling the length of the 8 biggest fish per team, 2,686 inches of trout were caught
  • The average size of the biggest fish was 16.8″
  • The average total number of trout caught per team was 47.04
  • The total number of trout caught was 988

Team Olive caught 49 total fish and our average biggest size was 16.6″. That indicates that we were right in the ballpark of the overall average, despite Marck’s best efforts to make sure we were better than average. I reckon if you take Marck’s angling skills, add them to my unaccomplished angling skills, you end up with an average skill level.

Oops, my bad.

Yes, I’m definitely going back next year. In fact I have to because I unintentionally brought the card key to our room home with me. It must be returned. In the meantime I’m going to lobby for the addition of a new category for the Biggest Whitefish. I caught 12 of my best whities ever, and I’d like credit for that. And next year Marck and I are going to request Greta as our guide. Sorry, Will–nothing personal. I assure you it has nothing to do with your staunch integrity. 😉

Thanks to Bill Farnum and Jim Copeland for putting on such a great event. Thanks to Will and Worldcast Anglers for putting us and the others on some invaluable fish. Thanks to everyone we met for an incredible time, and thanks to all my friends and family who helped get Team Olive to Victor. It made a difference and will continue to do so until the cure is found.

The Terrible Twos

It’s not such a grand milestone to celebrate two years of Weekly Drivel®, because in the grand scheme of things two years is nothing compared to other blogs that have been at it for a lot longer. And whether or not the Weekly Drivel® is something worth celebrating is up for debate as well.

But let’s revisit the past two years very briefly, shall we?

It’s started on September 13th 2009 with this post. I really didn’t know what I was doing back then. Still don’t. But that’s OK, because change is bad.

A year ago I paused to reflect on the first year of the blog. In looking back at that entry, I’d have to say that overall very little has changed, other than a new look. I still have about the same number of loyal followers as I did a year ago, although thanks to the extended recession I may have actually fewer. But who’s counting, right? I recommend that you read my one year anniversary entry and just insert “2” instead of “1” where referenced.

For the most part I’ve held to a promise I made to myself, which was to put something out each week. Good, bad or otherwise, I pretty much stayed true to my word with the exception of a brief retirement that lasted just over two weeks before I unretired. A few people speculated that my retirement was merely a cheap publicity stunt. To those who would alledge such a thing I say to you, “Do you really think I deserve credit for being that clever?”

Over the course of the last two years there was never any promise to myself or anyone else that it would all be good, or expectations that it would all be bad. It is what it has been: Weekly Drivel® and admission is free so you get what you pay for.

As the Unaccomplished Angler faces this next year, the road is wide open. The sky is the limit. Who knows what lies ahead? I don’t, that’s for sure.  But if this blog is anything like a child who has just turned 2, you’re all in for a lot of misery.

Thanks for sticking with me. I hope I don’t disappoint, although I believe it’s too late for that.


Jackasses and Humpies

If I’m going to get up at 4:30 AM to go fishing, it had better be to either catch something, or go steelhead fishing (those two are mutually exclusive). On this day  it was to harvest some Humpback salmon, or as they are more commonly called, Humpies. There were an estimated 6 million of these fish returning to Puget Sound rivers this year, and I aimed to catch several, and bring home a couple for the smoker. I was in fact so confident that I bragged to Mrs. UA that I’d be bringing home some fish. She always delights in this novel concept, given that 99% of the time I release all the fish I catch (and a good portion of those are released at a long distance).

Honestly, the wiser I get the less appeal rising at 4:30 has, no matter what I’m doing. But when a youthful, enthusiastic friend continually hounds invites you to join him for a morning of catching Humpies, the best way to get him to stop bugging you only sensible thing to do is to oblige. And so it was that I rolled into the parking lot at 5:30, did my best to cheerfully greet Evahn (not his real name) and gear up. Under the cloak of darkness we marched down the trail, over some fallen trees, and after a relatively short hike ended up on the banks of the Snohomish River near the Donkey Hole (more on that later).

This section of the river is close enough to Puget Sound to be influenced by tidal activity, although the water does not taste of salt. Being only a few miles from the sound, there’s good reason why people come here to catch Humpies: they’re still bright and fresh. Allowing them to migrate further upstream means the fish become more tightlipped and darkly colored as they prepare to spawn.

A dime bright Humpy

Humpies run every other year in these parts (actually there are fish in the rivers each fall, but there’s only a large enough run to warrant a legal season every other year). I fished last for them in October of 2009, many miles further upstream from the Donkey Hole. As one would expect, the fish I caught were not dime bright, though they did not appear overly uncooperative either, given that I caught several.

A not dime bright Humpy

The origin of the name, Donkey Hole, revealed itself shortly after we began fishing at 6 AM.  I should state that it had nothing to do with the other gentleman who joined us later in the morning–a friend of Evahn’s who bears more than a passing resemblance to Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule (a mule is the hybrid offspring of a horse and a donkey in case you were wondering where I was going with this).

Not Gov't Donkey

But I digress. The quiet tranquility of the morning was shattered by a sound that was more haunting than the blood-curdling call of a heron in flight. It might best be described as a shrill nasal whistle followed by a great exhalation sounding remotely like a raspy foghorn, albeit somewhat higher in pitch. If you’ve ever heard a jackass braying then you know this sound. “Guess you know why it’s called the Donkey Hole, eh?” said Evahn. The jackasses on the farm across the river kept at their racket in short bursts throughout the morning.  I actually rather enjoyed the braying–it interrupted the jubilant celebrations of the many gear anglers in boats who were regularly hooking up with fish.

I had one fish on within the first hour, but it came unbuttoned.  No worries, I told myself. There were dozens upon dozens of fish jumping and rolling on the mirror-like surface of the water and the day was young.  It was far too early to count my unaccomplishments just yet. Evahn admitted that it was much slower than it had been just a couple of days earlier when he’d hooked and landed over 20 fish (allegedly). The day wasn’t going perhaps as well as either of us had expected, but in many ways it was going better for me than for Evahn. At least I’d remembered my wallet, all my flies and all sections of my rods. But that’s where my good fortune stopped, and Evahn’s began.

I had two more nibbles but no takes. I did get close enough to touch fish, however, as Evahn landed a few fish throughout the morning. One of his fish waited until we’d both crouched closely with our cameras before flopping violently on the beach and splattering our faces with wet sand.

Evahn with a Humpy

Humpies, also known as Pink salmon, are the smallest of the salmon species, and the pink designation refers not to their coloration because unlike Red (Sockeye) Salmon, which are red, Pink (Humpback) Salmon are not pink. I guess it refers to the fact that they eat pink stuff and it’s widely accepted that any pink fly will entice a strike. That’s always worked for me, but on this day nothing I tried seemed to work.

Examples of three pink flies that did not work.

Evahn found the secret weapon late in the morning and it was neither pink, nor a fly (per se). I will not divulge what that secret weapon was for two reasons: First, I dare not give away the secret; secondly, I wish not to bring shame upon Evahn. Like me, he is a puritan fly angler who would never nymph for steelhead or use a pink Dick Nite to catch Humpies. Suffice it to say, once he had it dialed in, Evahn was on fire and landed probably 5 fish in the last half hour. Well done, sir–here’s mud in your eye.

Evahn, the Accomplished Angler

We called it quits at around noon and hiked back to the parking lot. As we did so, one of us had his tail between his legs and later felt like a jackass when he got home and had to tell his wife that he had failed to bring home one of 6 million fish or supper. By the way, Evahn works for Allen Fly Fishing. They design some nice rods and reels, all field-tested by an accomplished angler.

A different September 11

We all know the significance of 9-11. How could we forget that horrific Tuesday ten years ago that forever changed the world?  We won’t forget. We shouldn’t forget, ever.

Living on the West Coast, the news came early.  My kids were 7 and 9. They weren’t awake yet. I was just getting ready to head out the door to work when the phone rang. The Caller ID indicated it was my in-laws.  “Strange,” I thought, “Why would they be calling this early?”  I picked up the phone and on the other end was my father-in-law. He never called. It was always the mother of Mrs. UA who did the calling.  There was no warm greeting as I would have expected, and the tone in my father-in-law’s voice had a ring of distress to it:

“Are you watching the news?” he asked.

My answer was no.

“Turn on the television,” he said. Then he hung up.

I was late to work that day. When I arrived, not much work got done. Before the day was done, the skies were empty of air traffic. It caused an eery silence that I can still hear today.

For my dad, it was a lousy way to celebrate his 70th birthday. We had planned a big party for him a few days later, and while the plans were not canceled, the dark cloud of 9-11-2001 loomed over the festivities. Every year since then, my dad’s birthday is shrouded by the anniversary of the date that war was waged on American soil by an enemy without a country.

Without taking anything away from the fallen heros who gave their lives on that infamous day and to those who have died every day since then as the battle has continued, I want to note that there is another September 11…a day that had special significance long before 9-11. A day that, even with the unfortunate association, is a day worth celebrating.

Happy 80th, Dad.  And God bless America.

Good Will Fishing, Day One

The honorable William Dewey (damn him anyway)

We pick up where we left off last week

As we bounced along the lengthy dirt road to our launch point we were mildly reminded of the festivities the night before, which is to say that I was glad we didn’t stay up any later than we did. Day One of the “friendly competition” had Team Olive fishing the canyon section known as #3: Cottonwood to Byington. And with guide Will Dewey of Worldcast Anglers responsible for the oars and for keeping an honest record of the fish we caught, we had our work cut out for us. To clarify, I do not mean to suggest that Will was incapable of doing his job, which was to navigate the river safely and put us on fish—he proved worthy of that. But he also proved to be a man of integrity, and we were incapable of buying a little “leeway” when sizing our fish and totaling the overall catch. Turns out he was is an Eagle Scout, as was am I, but he’s much younger and the oath we each took as Scouts remains a lot fresher in his mind than in mine.

We had about 12 river miles to cover on this first day, and though we were on the water by around 9 AM, we were not alone.  As one might imagine with 22 teams spread out over 4 sections of river, there would be company (albeit good company) and it would be difficult to fish untouched water.  I was glad to be stationed in the back of the boat where there’s no pressure to perform, whereas Marck occupied the cat bird seat up front where he would earn his keep (and redeem himself from the ass-kicking he took on the Bitterroot two days earlier). I started out the day with a hopper and a dropper while Marck worked the surface with two dries: something big and something small.

Marck scores one for Team Olive

Throughout the day we would hear lots of grasshoppers in the grass, but hopper patterns didn’t rise any fish. Most surface takes were on PMD patterns, and we saw a few of the creme-colored mayflies coming off at times throughout the day, but nothing that would amount to a hatch.  The South Fork has a very good number of both trout and Whitefish per mile, and when you’re nymphing you’re going to catch big trout and lots of Whitefish. Or at least the latter, in my experience.  In my defense, these were all fair hooked: in the mouth. And they were some of the biggest Whities I’ve ever caught…photo-worthy Whities, they were. We didn’t get a lot of photos of fish (trout or otherwise) on the first day, which might partially be due to the fact that we didn’t catch many photo-worthy trout (since when is a 16 inch trout not worth a photo?!). Will is obviously accustomed to much larger trout, and an auto focus cameras proved too slow to capture a photo before most were tossed back.

Hey, that was a "Yakima 18"—I wanted a photo!

Late in the afternoon we were working a small back eddy when Marck’s rod bent like the front bumper of the Fish Taco hitting a deer.  There were no ensuing head shakes or spunky little attempts to slip the hook. This fish just put its head down and stayed put. And then it tangled itself up on some sunken branches. And the broken end of Marck’s 5X tippet returned to the boat. It would have been nice to have gotten a look at whatever leviathan had just stolen more of Will’s flies. My bet was that it was a huge brown, although we’ll forever be left to wonder. Either upset by the loss of yet more flies or the fact that this fish might have won the tournament for Team Olive (and therefore secured a place in the Casting 4 A Cure Guide Hall of Fame for Will), our guide was clearly upset. He may have shed a tear, or he may in fact have had something in his eye, as he alleged.

Will has something in his eye, and a gesture for Marck.

We fished out the remainder of the day without any remarkable fish to note, although I’d like to reiterate that a 16 inch trout is gangbusters from where Team Olive hails.  And 16 inch trout are what we posted as our 4 biggest fish of the day: 3 cutts and one rainbow. We caught a total of 21 trout, which wasn’t too shabby considering we weren’t really there just to catch fish.

That evening back at the Teton Lodge we talked shop with the other anglers. Interestingly everyone seemed to gather near the scoreboard where we they casually glanced, pretending not to care, as totals for the day were entered into the columns. Neither Marck nor I hardly noticed as the results of Day One were totaled up and one of the teams posted unbelievable numbers: 57 total trout caught?! Riiiight, I’m just so sure, Team Sage/Rio 😉


Not every guide was an Eagle Scout, apparently.

We feasted on a an exceptional Mexican buffet for dinner, followed by a few more cold beers from The Cooler That Was Never Empty before turning in at the shamefully early hour of 10PM. Some of the heartier younger folks stayed up into the wee hours, but Team Olive needed to make sure we brought our A Game in the morning. There were bigger fish to catch than just 16 inch fingerlings.


Jump straight to Day Two by clicking here.


The Road to Victor

Note to self: next time when driving from Hamilton (MT) to Victor (ID), choose an alternate route rather than taking Hwy 93 all the way south through Salmon, Leodore and Mud Lake, ID. With all due respect to the town of Salmon,  this neck of the woods may be a notch better than say, eastern Nevada, but there’s nothing much to see south of Salmon. Next time we’ll take 43 east to Wisdom, MT and then 278 to Interstate 15 instead of staying on Hwy 93. It may be a little longer but I’m sure it’s worth the extra mileage. Our route took us through barren, high desert and then endless miles of ag land until we began to see the Tetons in the distance around Rexburg.

Nowhere, Idaho

As we approached Driggs the mountains came into full view. Given that I’d never seen the Tetons before, I was gawking like a common tourist instead of a glancing casually at them like a swaggering, confident angler who had just kicked Marck’s ass on the Bitterroot the day before. I figured we’d be staring at the Tetons all weekend, but luckily I shot one marginal photo as we drove past Driggs. As it turns out, that was the last time we’d see the range all weekend—Victor is to the South and tucked behind some foothills which obstructed our view.  Not to worry, the scenery around Victor is still exceptional so I’m not complaining. After all, we weren’t there to sight-see.

Near Driggs, Idaho

After a 5.5 hour drive we pulled into Victor right around 4:30. The first order of business was to stop at World Cast Anglers where we picked up our Idaho licenses and a few other items. We had a coupon for a nice discount thanks to the shop’s partnership with Casting 4 A Cure.  While at the shop I also picked up a sticker for the back of the Fish Taco. This news greatly pleased Mrs. UA when I sent her a text to let her know we’d arrived safely before darkness brought out the many roadside large game animals in Idaho.

Yes, Dear, I got another sticker

The Teton Springs Lodge is a far cry from the Ho Mum Motel in West Yellowstone, and therefore Marck and I were somewhat uncomfortable in the lavish surroundings. We met Jim Copeland with Casting 4 A Cure, checked-in and received a very nice offering of assorted schwag from sponsors Patagonia, Sage, Scott, Fishpond, Fly Fishing Film Tour, Howling Brothers, Loon Outdoors, Rio, Big Agnes and others. Jim pointed to a cooler brimming with ice cold PBR and Coors Light, and we felt right at home.

Casting 4 A Cure

We were, after all, parched from the long drive so we may have partaken of more than one beer as we acclimated ourselves and inspected the scoreboard that would tally the angling accomplishments over the next two days. The board was obviously wide open as fishing had not yet commenced. Anything could happen. There were some impressive anglers in town for the event, and while we may have been out of our league we weren’t intimidated. At least Marck wasn’t. He’s a rock, albeit a rock that had his arse handed to him the day before (did I mention that already?).

Team Olive is on the board!

Auntie Em! We're not at the Ho Hum anymore!

After depositing our bags and gear in our entirely-too-fancy-for-the-likes-of-us suite, we enjoyed mingling with the other guests and feasting on a fantastic dinner of grilled ribeye steaks. A welcome from director Bill Farnum left nary a dry eye in the room as we listened to his experiences raising his daughter Ella, who has Rett Syndrome. Special guest Ed Kammerer also told the group about his daughter who has Rett Syndrome, and like I said–there wasn’t a dry eye to be found. Bryan Huskey of Fishbite Media showed an inspirational film he produced titled, Doc of The Drakes, about a gentleman fighting and fishing his battle against Parkinson’s. While the evening was heart-wrenching for sure, I didn’t leave feeling depressed, but rather filled with hope and the realization that a cure for Rett Syndrome is in sight and could lead to progress in curing other, related neurological disorders. It was a good reminder why we were in Victor.

More cold beer was enjoyed from The Cooler That Was Never Empty and we spent the remainder of the evening telling half truths around the fire pit. We probably stayed up later than we should have, but we were still in bed by 1 AM. That may not be very impressive if you’re 25, but we’re well past the age where howling at the moon can be balanced with an early morning alarm.

Waiting to begin our morning commute

At 7 o’clock the next morning the guests assembled, bright-eyed, eager to go fishing as an army of trucks with drift boats arrived at the lodge. Each team met their guides from World Cast Anglers and learned which section of the South Fork we would be fishing. The guide for Team Olive was a young man by the name of Will Dewey, originally from Pennsylvania. Marck and I piled into Will’s rig and ate a light breakfast on our way to the river. We would be floating section 3, in the canyon, and had about an hour’s drive to our launch point. The fun was about to begin. Well, that’s not entirely true because we’d already had a great time. But it was about to get even better.